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Religious restrictions increased for 2 billion
Lauren Markoe, Religion News Service
August 10, 2011
3 MIN READ TIME

Religious restrictions increased for 2 billion

Religious restrictions increased for 2 billion
Lauren Markoe, Religion News Service
August 10, 2011

A third of the world — about 2.2 billion people — live in nations

where restrictions on religion have substantially increased, according to a new

report.

The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life study, released Aug. 9, also shows

intolerant countries growing more hostile to religious freedom, and tolerant

ones growing more accommodating.

“There seems to be somewhat of a polarization,” particularly in countries with

constitutional prohibitions against blasphemy, said Brian Grim, the primary

researcher of the report. “When you have one set of restrictions in place then

it’s easier to add on.”

Among those nations with the greatest increases in government religious

restrictions, ranked from most to least populous, were: Egypt,

France, Algeria,

Uganda and Malaysia.

Among those nations where government restrictions declined, ranked from most to

least populous, were: Greece,

Togo, Nicaragua,

Republic of Macedonia

and Guinea-Bissau.

The report, culling data from 198 countries and territories from 2006 through

2009, also measured social hostility toward religious groups. North

Korea, one of the most repressive regimes,

could not be included for lack of reliable data.

Researchers collected statistics before the Arab Spring, but said the report

may shed light on this year’s uprisings across the Middle East.

“It’s indisputable that increasing levels of restriction were part of the

overall context within which the uprisings took place,” Grim said. “Whether

they were the trigger or they were just part of this trend in societies is

difficult to tease apart at this point.”

As other reports on religious freedom have found, it is scarcest in the Middle

East and North Africa. But Europe, the

study noted, has the largest proportion of countries where social hostilities

related to religion rose. In France,

for example, women are barred by law from wearing face-covering veils.

More than other groups, Muslims and Christians suffered harassment based on

their religion. But Pew researchers noted that together, these groups comprise

more than half the world’s population. Smaller religious groups that suffered

disproportionately, the study found, included Jews. Representing less than one

percent of the world’s people, Jews were

harassed in 75 countries.

Overall, about 70 percent of the world lives in nations with

significant religious repression — a figure that matched that of a similar

study Pew undertook two years ago. But the nations in which religious

repression is increasing tend to be populous, the study’s authors noted.